The ever worsening and sinking US-China relationship has been a front-and-center headline for months, even prior to the onslaught of the Wuhan virus, as the trade war gave way to increasingly tense naval provocations in the South China Sea, and now the ongoing diplomatic blame game back-and-forth between Beijing and Washington.
The end result of all this, as Bloomberg puts it, is as follows: "It’s not quite a new Cold War yet. Just the cold shoulder."
We explained earlier that in a nation that seems impossibly divided on most issues and is ideologically polarized more than ever in history, China is the one thing that more than two-thirds of Americans can agree on, and they agree that they simply do not like China. And the numbers absolutely bear that out: "Some 40% of Americans said they won’t buy products from China, according to a survey of 1,012 adults conducted May 12-14 by Washington-based FTI Consulting, a business advisory firm."
Among the other results as summarized by Bloomberg, the poll found:
- 55% don’t think China can be trusted to follow through on its trade-deal commitments signed in January to buy more U.S. products
- 78% percent said they’d be willing to pay more for products if the company that made them moved manufacturing out of China
- 66% said they favor raising import restrictions over the pursuit of free-trade deals as a better way to boost the U.S. economy
This could play big for President Trump just six months out from the November election, something he seems very cognizant of, given he provocatively told FOX last week that ties with Beijing could ultimately be severed altogether.
“There are many things we could do — we could cut off the whole relationship,” Trump said in the interview when asked about the new retaliatory visa measures targeting Chinese nationals, such as state media personnel and students.
Chad Bown of the Peterson Institute for International Economics pointed out to Bloomberg that “Foreigners are an all too easy political target in normal times. But once they become unpopular, politics can turn dangerous, as they turn into policy.”
For the upcoming presidential election this translates to the following scenario:
“As candidates compete over who can adopt a more extreme stance toward China between now and November, their post-election policies toward Beijing are increasingly being set in stone,” Bown said.
And it's worth remembering that multiple months before anyone had heard the name coronavirus, Trump tweeted “we don’t need China and, frankly, would be far better off without them” last August during the height of the trade war.
From a March Pew Research Center poll:
Of course Americans divorcing themselves from cheap Chinese manufactured goods remains much easier said than done.
"For a majority of U.S. companies that do business in China, uprooting themselves from world's second-largest economy isn’t really feasible," Bloomberg writes. "But according to a March survey of members of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, 44% of respondents said it’s not possible for the two economies to decouple, down from 66% polled in October. A fifth said decoupling will accelerate."
So perhaps, where there's a collective will there's a way. And a China-originated deadly global pandemic looks to be accelerating what was once thought near impossible.
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Coming to a workplace discussion near you: